Remember when ménage à trois link exchanges and reciprocal links were the recommended way of boosting your site’s rank in the eyes of Google? Link exchange networks would advertise blogs and websites willing to give you a backlink in exchange for placing their link on your own website.
This ranking tactic worked well until Google came along and cracked down on such link schemes.
Nowadays, every big blogger is hosting and/or engaging in link parties to garner comments and “comment love.” What is a link party?
In essence, a popular blogger invites other bloggers to post a link to one of their blog posts on the site. This racks up 50 or even more blog post links on the popular blogger’s site. The blogger then asks all link posters to go around and leave a comment on the other blog posts. By doing so, each blogger will be rewarded with a bunch of comments on his/her own blog post.
Lots of comments on a blog post look good and raise the social standing (i.e., search engine ranking) of the blog. Bloggers become aware of and get to network. It’s all good clean fun and networking, right?
Call me a little bit paranoid, but I’m just not buying into this link party hype.
I’m suspecting that Google will soon be putting an end to these parties.
Link Parties and Google: Penalties On the Horizon?
Here are some major reasons why link parties, just like link exchanges, could be placed on Google’s hit list:
1. They’re against nature.
In the eyes of search engines, natural and organic traffic is prized above all else. With link parties, the traffic is sudden and often forced; for example, all comments must be made within a one week timespan. This is usually because different link parties might happen each week, requiring those people making comments to now focus on a different blog.
Google has a term for this type of “partying”: non-natural link building.
2. They are often spammy and/or irrelevant.
Unless you’re a big fan of pineapple upside-down cake, what exactly are you going to say on a blog post showing you how to bake one? With link parties, however, you’re honor-bound to make a quip about each and every blog post that’s delivered to you for commenting.
As a result, many bloggers end up with a bunch of “Great post!” comments that don’t do anything to enhance their content. Furthermore, the hyperlinked post left within their Commentluv-enabled comment might be completely irrelevant to the featured content and overall theme of the blog.
3. They may lead to keyword-stuffing.
A well-intended blog post about freelance writing, for example, may become keyword-stuffed with the phrase ‘freelance writing’ simply because a bunch of comments suddenly show up praising this blog post and how it took on the subject of (you guessed it) freelance writing. This could easily lead to a Google penalty.
But what about…
1. Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute?
I checked out a few big-time blogger link parties and sure enough, their source code included nofollow attributes on each link in the link party. Doing so not only helped these blogs avoid a Google backlink penalty, but it also prevented those backlinks from draining the hosting blog’s “SEO juice.”
However, unless I understand it differently, the nofollow attribute merely tells Google spiders to not crawl and account for a link in their Pagerank process. There is nothing stopping Google from creating an algorithm that indexes that link, as well as the tens or even hundreds of other links on a given blogger’s link party page.
At this point, Google could easily note where each link’s many comments have originated from. To some extent, the Google Analytics tool already does this when it helps bloggers figure out just where their visits have come via a section called “Acquisition.”
2. Curating incoming comments?
Bloggers are certainly justified in curating their content so that only insightful and non-spammy comments come through. And seeing a long list of valuable comments left by well-intentioned visitors can be rewarding in its own right.
However, if the visitors leaving those comments never do anything else like return to the blog or sign up for its newsletter, how much value will their visits and comments really have in the long run?
Also, consider the time cost involved in leaving comments on other blogs and curating the comments that show up on your own. In that time frame, you could’ve performed many other and possibly more productive tasks, including visiting blogs that you already like and follow, participating in social media and increasing your followers there, or just improving the quality of the content you published.
Are link parties worth it?
Ultimately, I like link parties because they enable me to find new blogs and read interesting content. And I’ve certainly participated in my share of link parties. However, with Google taking note of any forced linking strategies, I am now more wary of this comment-generating method. In fact, I predict that Google will inevitably crack down on this “sure-fire” method of gaining short-term online exposure and traffic.
What can you do instead to generate comments? As I have learned, writing very effective blog post titles does wonders for your traffic and email signups. Following trending topics and writing content related to them is another good way of generating online interest. There’s also guest posting on high-ranking blogs and websites.
All these alternate methods take more time and effort, of course. But, in the end, there is no shortcut for being viewed as an authority site- and having the quality content to back up that claim.